Thursday, September 27, 2007

forgot about dre

i was in 7th grade that year. 12 years old or so. i was in the hall of my school cutting class with my best friend thomas. he told me i had to hear this song, but he didnt know the name of it. he said it was the more than fresh, the best song ever. i asked him if he had a tape and he said naw, he had heard it on the radio. it was the best song they had played that night, he said. just listen to the radio, and i'd hear it.

so a few nights later i tune in to the local rap show, on a small station way left on the dial hosted by this cat named marcus clemons from the call letters KPOO. the minute it comes on i know its the song thomas was talking about. even though he couldnt describe it. even though the only detail he could give me was that the rapper had a "squeaky" voice, i knew it. the instant the beat dropped, i knew. it was classic. it was Boyz in the Hood, by Eazy E.

that was the first time i'd ever heard dre. better known then as dr. dre. of course, Eazy E's voice was the immediate allure, but it was that slow, bass driven, dark west coast funk that remained in me when the song was over. the chant of the chorus, the calm gangsta drawl, figured something out in me. about who i was and where i was from and all the history id suffered at that early stage. it tickled my masculinity, it suffocated the coward in me. it hit me in undiscovered depths. a kaboom in my young conscious. for the next 3 to 4 years dre would strike this deep, drunken, ghetto chord in my system. then we lost touch.

the day everybody bought 'the chronic' album i bought 'bizarre ride to the pharcyde', and i knew, and still believe, i got the better end of the deal. 'bizarre ride,' for me, was a paradigm shifting album. the humor, vulnerability, clever wordplay, and classic hip hop attitude of pharcyde did for me at that age what N.W.A. did for me 4 years earlier. it helped me define who i was. it, in some strange way, for even existing, justified the person i had grown into. i was black and living in the sorta safe confines of a mostly white suburb but i felt out of place and exotic. i wore baggy jeans and bore scars left by women. i danced, played old funk when no one listened to it, and took too much acid. i was clever and charming and distant. i was in high school. a senior with failing grades.

the day i got it i went to a friends house to smoke some weed. another friend of his was there and he had just got 'the chronic' album and wanted to play it. he said it was hella dope dude. i said, wait, just let me play you three songs from this cd i got, its hella dope too. then i played them 'passing me bye,' into 'pack the pipe,' into 'otha fish,' and when they were over he said no dont take it out, this is good, we'll listen to dr. dre later. and we didnt, we just rewound 'bizarre ride..'

i heard the singles on the radio. i didnt like 'nuthin but a g thang.' i thought the sample was lame and snoop doggy dog didnt sound as hard as he had on 'deep cover.' then came 'let me ride,' which i thought was good, but not anything to cheer for. then 'Fuck wit dre day.' which i again, thought was ok, but didnt care about. when i finally heard the full album the only track i really cared for was a 2 minute short, 'high powered,' from now maligned RBX. good? sure. classic? hardly.

but i was wrong.

10 years after it dropped im older and wiser and watching tv. im stoned and wired and flipping through the channels. my roommate comes home and starts rifling through the cd's. he finds one and says 'yes!' softly then ask me to turn down the tube. he puts on 'the chronic' and rolls a joint and we started nodding our heads to the opening bassline. a few more friends come by and weed starts being rolled and i sneak to my room and do a bump of crystal. the sun was setting over san francisco and a girl starts shaking her butt and some dude slaps it and she says ow! and im like, damn yo, aint nothin like a gangsta party. and it was easy and fun and so fucking classic that i didnt know why i'd slept. oh well, better late than never.


wow, i just started listening to dre songs and forgot all about this post. shit. im tired now. ill tell you about why dre's '2001' album just now hit me some other day.


Friday, September 21, 2007

been burnt

This room that I write in is cluttered. Which is very symbolic of the kind of person I am. But that’s another entry on another day where I'm feeling braver. Right now I'm talking about this room. And its full of crap.

Records surround me. Always. I have shelves of them and them in shelves. Next to books and old art and under shoeboxes filled with receipts and wires and old toys I'm too scared to throw away.

I've got the movie poster for jimmy cliff’s ‘the harder they come,’ rolled up in a rubber band sitting between two 30 count boxes of promo cd’s. I’ve got a box of old mix tapes that are only practice and aren’t good that I refuse to give up because they are actual documents of my growth. I've got lamps. Books. Broken alarm clocks. Shit. Shit all over. Shit for days. I've got a lot of shit sitting on top of my records and that’s not even a fraction of the shit I got.

I've got a model of a wraith from the movie lord of the rings that I bought for a friend for his birthday. Apparently he didn’t want it. Cest la vie. Now its mine and I'm not going to throw it in the trash. I’m gonna keep it.

And the shoes. There are shoes, everywhere. Covering most every inch of my floor space. Old running shoes that are scuffed and split open. Basketball low tops that have permanent stains on their tongues and ripped lining around the toes. Slippers. So many slippers. Warm cozy wintertime slippers and loose leather casual summer joints. Sports sandals and flip-flops. And don’t even get me started on the promotional soccer jammys. Mad shoes. Covering everything. Like a rug on the hardwood. Like a fog on a city.

And bags and belts and electronic equipment that ill never use. Cd’s of all genres. Books of every interest. There are earphones that need repairing and music that needs to be burned and ashtrays and ashes and plugs and files and letters and bills and shit shit shit.

I've got to get organizized. That’s what Travis Bickle would say. I've got to take this life and shape it up. I’ve got to purify myself. I’ve got to do all that. Right after I write. And maybe have a few more drinks. And grow a year older. And rest a bit.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

long distance zombie

I got a call earlier on the landline, which I usually never answer, even if it’s plugged in, which it rarely is. Immediately I curse myself for lifting the receiver. A bill collector, young and female and hungry for closure, barks at me on the other end. I've got a debt from a few years ago. I debt I was aware of but ignored. Something I figured would slip through the cracks, forgotten in the long history of bills that go uncollected. It wasn’t for much, but it was for something. She wanted that something. She wanted it now.

We come to an agreement and I resign myself to making a payment. Just one step towards clearing my name, which has been drug through the mud of financial insecurity for so long I don’t even know if it’s possible. I get transferred to a different department and then transferred to another. They say they have me on file for another debt, one from 1994. I tell them I don’t know what they are talking about and hang up the phone.

But I do. I do know what they are talking about. A phone bill from when I was 18 years old. Our first apartment on Pine street in San Francisco. It was 4 of us that moved in but only 3 of us paid the rent. And that we did in slow, uncertain increments. At any given point there were 6-7 people crashing there at once. Bibles of LSD trafficking through our freezer, pounds of weed slung from under our beds, boats of mdma counted out on the coffee table.

We paid our rent selling squares of illusion to kids at raves. We ate half our supply, just making enough to support our own habits. The cable was shut off within the first two months, then the phone a month after. The name on the phone bill changed hands 4 times, every single one resulting in a debt for the recipient, a scar on their credit report that would haunt them forever.

I am bearing that scar.

The last thing to go was the electricity, this was right before we were kicked out, 5 months into our stay. If the walls in that apartment could tell stories it they would probably slur from being so shitfaced.

There was me smoking mushrooms from a bong and then exploding vomit all over the bathroom wall, unable to bear the taste of it. It tasted like what I imagine cat food to taste like. There was the night one of us came home with a full tank of nitrous and passed out on the bed muttering, “go ahead and do it all,” and a pile of balloons filled with 20 pounds of dental grade laughing gas gone in a few hours by 7 starving ravers. There was the threesome in the living room negotiated over a bad of speed. There was the acid dropped on sugar cubes on pages of mein kampf on our eyeballs and tongues and the sun always rising as we fell asleep.

No one had a cell phone back then, only pagers. And thus, the phone bill soared. There were calls to Thailand, the Philippines, Canada, and New York. None of us knew who made them and none of us would pay. We would ask around and get blank stares in return. Apparently, no one made the calls. I suppose we justified that is the reason we wouldn’t pay. The bills were discarded, rotting in the arrogance of our youth. Now they are back for closure. Fucking hell.

Friday, September 14, 2007


I'm sitting here and I'm smoking a spliff and I'm thinking of an uncle I have named Alphonso. Everyone in the family calls him ‘Junior,’ because he has the same name as my grandfather, but his friends call him Al. I call him what I have called him ever since I was a little kid, being tossed in the air in the summertime on the corner of the block my where grandparents lived: Fonso.

Fonso had traveled the world. Moved to Africa when he got out of college then to Florida after, so he could surf. He would take me down to my grandmothers basement, where all the boxes of old books I would dig through were, and the discarded appliances that were either outdated or broken sat, waiting for my grandfathers magical hand to cure them of their ills. There was a dusty dartboard and a ping-pong table, covered in the junk of an entire generation. I think my uncles use to hang out there when they were in their teens. There was a couch in the corner, where I bet they sat and bragged about the girls they dated. Above this couch was a rack and on that rack was a thousand surfboards.

He would stroke their edges and tell me stories. Letting his hand search the body of the board, the curves of it, the cracks and dents that held the memory of each wave he crashed into, and explaining to me how he felt a man should live. I would only half listen most of the time, never fully giving in to his arrogance, distracted by his booming voice. I would wait for him to get bored with his audience, and study the mess for monsters. It was scary down there.

Sometimes he would take me to play Frisbee, all the while encouraging me to throw better, then screaming, “Yes! Now you’re getting it!” when I executed a good toss.

One time I passed Fonso and some men sitting on he stoop of a neighbor’s house while walking home from school. He stopped me as I walked along, or maybe it was I that stopped to talk to him and his friends, hoping to be cool, a man, for a brief instant before I took off my catholic school uniform, I don’t remember. It doesn’t matter. As I was about to leave he grabbed my shoulders and turned me away from him, then he opened my backpack and put something in it. He turned me around.

-Take that home with you. And DON’T LOOK AT IT!

I nodded my head absently, and walked away.

When I got out of eyeshot I looked in the bag.

It was a knife. Huge and jagged. The kind you would kill a deer with. It was long and thick and steel and it had a black grip molded to fit a large hand. So it could be held tightly while ripping something like say, guts, from a body.

I freaked out. An rush of violence shivered in my blood. I almost began to cry. I was seven.

I don’t know why, maybe it was the sly look he gave or the smirk he wore or the condescending way he would interrogate me about what I knew of girls, but I didn’t want to be involved with whatever he was doing. He had been arrested before. My mother had told me he’d shot a cop in self-defense. That it wasn’t his fault but what could a black man do in this system? I knew the score. He’d shot a cop. He’d did his time. I still didn’t want his knife in my bag.

So I walked back to where he was. Gigantic bubbles of snot in my nose. Humongous tears swelling in my eyes. And told him I couldn’t do it, and dropped my bag at his feet.

-Awwww, he laughed. You looked inside.

I held my head low, falling. He grabbed my neck and pulled me towards him.

-It’s ok little buddy. Go home. I’ll bring the bag. He let me go and I ran to my grandmothers. The door was unlocked.

Fonso let me read his porno magazines. His was the first ones I’d ever saw. He kept them under his bed and I’d sneak into his room and read them when he wasn’t home. One day he caught me and instead of freaking out, just laughed and let me be, but not before nervously saying, -don’t let your grandmother know you’re looking at those.

When the family and me “broke up,” I knew that if I called and he answered everything would be ok. Not because I trust him, but because I know he isn’t trusted, so we would be in the same boat.

Last time I saw him, he had lost an eye in a fight. He still bragged about all the women he had though, and I still only half listened.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


September 20th, 1975, was a Saturday, which is strange, because I’d always thought it was a Tuesday. Knowing now, that it fell on the weekend, instead of in the early week, changes something about it to me. Tuesday has always seemed like an insignificant day. It comes right after the beginning of the week, meaning that the end of the week is still far far away, but its also not in the middle of the week, so it doesn’t provide much comfort in knowing that the week is coming to a close. Saturday is not only one of the few days that most everyone looks forward to, but its also kind of convenient, in that it doesn’t interrupt the work week were one to want to do something. On this particular Saturday though, there was a lot going on in the world, namely, I was being born.

My birth didn’t make it to the front of the paper, but patty Hearst capture after a set of fingerprints in a barn in Pennsylvania were found by cops, tipping them off to patty’s whereabouts, was on every front page in the nation. Poor patty, she was so rich that the judge denied her bail pending hearing. The SLA crumbled. Another group of fanaticals beaten by the fist of American justice.

The musicians on Broadway were on strike. It halted most every musical production in midtown. Only dramas took the stage. It was your usual wage dispute. Probably had some shit to do with medical insurance too. Speaking of the theater, Sgt. Leonard P. Matlovic, an officer in the air force who admitted to being a “practicing homosexual,” was deemed unfit for military service and given a general discharge. His lawyer said he would push to get it changed to “honorable discharge” and felt pretty confident it wouldn’t be a problem.

What was considered the “earliest shipwreck ever found,” was discovered off the coast of Greece. It was from the Bronze Age. Scientist were freaking out.

A new socialist government was sworn in in Lisbon. It strongly opposed communism. Howling, “Fucking Commies!” and shaking ones fist, is the national salute in this newfound nation. In other international news: the fighting in Beirut worsened, Kissinger began to explore the ideas of long term oil purchasing with the then Soviet Union, and Ferdinand Marcos dismissed 2000 of his military officials as “traitors.” The 2000 officials were not available for comment. To celebrate, his wife Imelda bought 200 pairs of strappy pumps.

And on the topic of pumps, a pair of dope wallaby shoes cost only $16, and books were nowhere over $8. Gerald Ford was president, and ALLEGHENY, in a brilliant display of underachievement, took ads out in the New York Times proclaiming itself “The 6th largest passenger carrying airline in America.” Come on guys, just lie.

Waterbeds had been discovered! And I don’t mean discovered as in “hey, I discovered a new way out of this tunnel!” No, I mean discovered as in, “I cant wear those tight Speedo swimsuits, I’ll get discovered.” You got it? Anyway, waterbeds had been discovered. Their inherent flaws revealed. People were getting seasick, people wet the bed, the mattress was punctured and water had leaked all over the satin sheets and a baby drowned in San Diego.

So there was something new on the market that Saturday, something that worked like a waterbed and acted like a waterbed but wasn’t a waterbed. A Gel-bed. Yay! It’s a mattress filled with gel. It’s tough and doesn’t get punctured, and if, for some reason it does, instead of leaking fast, it comes out slow and gooey. It oozes out. So you could cut it, discover you cut it, go to the store and buy two bags of cheeto’s and a chili dog, come home and eat that while watching "The Jeffersons," and then patch it up before it even hit the floor. That’s ooze baby, Gel-bed ooze.

I guess the Gel-beds never took off; I don’t know anybody with one. And I think I know a few people with waterbeds, so its not like I don’t know the type of people that would have bought a Gel-bed had they the opportunity. Oh well.

In the theaters "Jaws" was still the big winner. Marlon Brando was making a small but impressive comeback in “Last Tango in Paris.” Woody Allen and Diane Keatan were in a low budget, somewhat well received comedy. “Dog Day Afternoon” was about to be released, and Al Pacinos brilliance would be further confirmed. "2001: A Space Odyssey" was being marketed as 'a trip…' and Russ Meyer’s “Super Vixens,” was quietly being watched by every man in America.

Gil Scott Heron was headlining at the New York City Center, and the Mets had lost in the wild card race against the Phillies, ending their season.

At 12:09 pm, right around lunchtime for most, at a hospital in San Francisco, I was born. I don’t know what the weather was like, but I assume it was clear, in the low 70’s, with a slight breeze from the east.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

new pussy

We got some kittens. On the kitten cuteness scale [which is different than the baby cuteness, outfit cuteness, and Lucille Ball baking a cake cuteness scales] they rank a healthy 9.8. I don’t believe any kitten has ever achieved a full 10.0 rank on the kitten cuteness scale (to accomplish this they would have to not only always wear oversized sunglasses and tiny denim kitten overalls, but also use the toilet to poo and flush after), so basically my kittens are perfect.

One is black and one is a tabby, they are brother and sister. They have those supremely large kitten eyes, glowing with color and curiosity, and those wee little kitten heads that you just want to pop in your mouth and suck on like a lollipop [do not try this!!!]. They are only 2 months old, still infants in the cat world, and they have that innocent, frolicking way about them that is not only so cute you want to punch yourself in the kidneys for smiling and saying ‘awwwww’ ad nauseam, but so infectious and youthful that one second you’ll be sitting on your couch reading about the Iraq war in the New York Times and the next you’re rolling on the floor batting around a ball of string with a little kittens head in your mouth.

The boys name is Andre Miles [they call him Ray Ray on the streets], and the girls name is Sophia [Sophie for short].

We were unsure about getting them at first. It’s hard to commit to sharing a pet when your relationship seems perpetually on its last legs. But we couldn’t resist the prospect of having wee poo ball bounding around the house, taking our minds off the trials of the world, preoccupying us with a wealth of precious occasions worthy of even the most saccharine Kodak moments. If we do break up, I don’t know how it will affect the kittens. Most likely they will be psychologically scarred to the point of writing bad emo poetry and getting hooked on illegal kitty drugs, but until then we are one happy, embarrassingly dysfunctional family.

We got them yesterday, and they were still only 9.6 on the kitten cuteness scale then. We let them get acquainted with the house, exploring all the nooks and crannies of our furniture, and held back the urge to take them into our bed for sleeping. We were worried about kitty poo being everywhere when we woke up, because it didn’t seem like they went the whole night. But lo and behold this morning when I woke, there in the litter box, like a big, huge, pile of hope, was heap of kitten doo doo, as precious as the butthole it came from.

They did it! They went to the bathroom in the box! There didn’t have to be any rubbing their nose in shit, no locking them in the bathroom with the box and a bowl of fiber, they did it all their own, like grown up cats. Yay!

That is what raised their rank from 9.6 to 9.8. I'm sure throughout the course of the day they would have displayed some absolutely adorable action that would have eventually raised their rank higher, but the fact that it came in a hunk of kitty waste is dear to my heart. I love my kitties!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

I can’t write. All the words in me, even the ones that haven’t formed, are dumb and stuttered. They manifest themselves clumsily, dull and retarded. They are lame at birth, some even at conception. It is a shame too, because I have a lot to say.

I don’t know what it is; I've tried all sorts of methods. I go to parties. I stay at home. I hang with friends and watch them run through their processes. I fight with my girlfriend, I surrender to her whims. I stay sober. I get high. I masturbate. I self deprive. Nothing will loosen this knot inside me. I can’t untangle this misery, this excitement, these silly notions I have about what it all means.

Like the other night, I went with a friend to jouvert, the party before the party that is the West Indian day parade. I braved the dark Brooklyn morning and the early autumn chill. It was so early that the moon still exploded in the night sky, but you could feel cold sting of dawn reaching out to the streets. We didn’t even start drinking until 4am.

The streets were buzzing in celebration. People of all ages were out from their houses, off their stoops and walking around, their dark faces beaming in the ritual, the ceremony, that was jouvert.

I drank with strangers, making quick and easy friendships. We watched floats go by with a thousand people on the back, all playing a different percussion. There were beautiful women dancing, half naked and unafraid. And men waving flags and screaming in island accents. Very few white people were there, those that were took pictures. The police stood by unconcerned. I drank right in front of them and they didn’t bat an eyelash.

On the way home I bought jerk chicken from a booth and, while walking down the street, heard steel drums behind me.

There is plenty more but like I said, I cant really put it into words like it should be. With this whole not being able to write thing.

I realized it’s just a phase. Sometimes I'm a rush of words. They run through me, through the very marrow of my bones. But sometimes I have nothing, right now is one of those times.

I think maybe I need to focus on music for a while. Maybe ill leave the word alone.

Then again I have to keep a fucking journal for this class. So ill have to write anyway. God damn, I just cannot win can I?

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Bon Voyage

I got a new pair of shoes.

I bought em on Thursday and wore em on Friday. The are white and black. Mostly white.

That night I went to a party and I was feeling pretty good because I looked pretty fly in my new kicks. They beam out from under the cuff of my jeans. They shine up from the pavement like beacons of hope. People would stop and point and gasp, struck by how sweet my feet looked when I passed them. The thought of unveiling them at a party was ideal, it had fairy tale qualities about it. I'm not sure i've ever had a fairy tale moment. Well look who’s wearing the glass slippers now.

It was a going away party for a friend. Everyone calls him T and he’s moving to California. He was raised in Brooklyn. Lived there most of his life, except for when he went to college in D.C., and that was a long time ago. When I told him there were mountains there, that he could see them from his windows while he sat and drank his beer, he said, “So what? I don’t give a shit about mountains.”

And he doesn’t, but he will soon.

Anyway, it was me and him and a few of his friends at an apartment above the bar. there was one woman there, she’s the one that paid the rent and was hosting the small event. There was chips and dips and chicken egg rolls and liquor and beer and my new shoes. We were all having a famously good time.

My shoes were a big hit.

At one point I thought there was too much testosterone in the room and for a minute I felt nervous and awkward, like I should quit while I was ahead, maybe go home and paint my nails or watch oprah or some shit. But my shoes gave me the confidence to persevere and when T put on a classic Notorious B.I.G. album and everyone started rapping along, I chimed in, screaming the chorus from the most primal depths of my large, drunken gut.

One of the guys got a little more drunk than the rest of us. I'm not sure how we all knew him, but he was pretty cool and slid comfortably into our small crowd. His name was Kevin. He was younger than us and couldn’t hold his liquor.. And after a few hours the host put him on the couch with a cup of water and we all watched him quickly drift into unconscious.

Then the guys went back to bumping chest. I started a conversation with a gay guy about how the neighborhood was changing, the host started cleaning up a little. The music blared at top volume.

Another hour goes by and we’ve slurred along to almost every classic rap album since 1993 when Nick, another kid I only sort of know but get along well with, explodes into the room screaming in his deep horse voice,

-We have to get downstairs, Kevin is bleeding! We have to get him to a hospital. HURRY UP!!!

We all barreled downstairs, some of us falling on the way. it was two flights and when I got to the top of the first flight I saw him lying there at the bottom. Not moving. Surrounded in a pool of his own blood.

And paint.

I'm not sure why there was paint there, but I'm assuming that’s what he tripped on. how he tripped, opened, and spilled TWO cans of paint is beyond me, but I didn’t have much time to consider that at the moment. I was more concerned with finding out if this rather large kid was alive or not.

He was, with a busted lip and three missing teeth.

Nick was still screaming.

T, who was still upstairs when we found him, came down the stairs and groaned. Then he screams down to us,


Then he storms back upstairs. T, it seems, is a firm believer in the Tough Love method.

I was holding Kevin up, telling him to spit out his teeth, while Nick was screaming about calling 911 and another guy was pleading with him not to and another guy, almost as drunk as Kevin himself, is screaming something nonsensical to the effect of, “lets just take him back upstairs I think there is more beer up there oh shit I got paint in my hair.”

That’s when it hits me, and I look down at my shoes.

Ruined. Paint covers them. Paint also covered my pants, my shirt, and, some how, my hair. but none of those mattered to me.

My new shoes are broken.

I filed that back in my “things to worry about later” folder, the one with my crushing debt and the passport application on my desk. The I put kevins arm around my shoulder and carry him to the street so we can sit and wait for the car. I give him a glass of water and a towel filled with ice. He mumbles something about how he cant go to the hospital. Nick is still screaming and some other guys are flailing their arms about and questions are shooting through the air and someone says they need another beer.

Eventually one of them walks him home. he refuses to go to the hospital. His teeth are wrapped in a napkin and are long and bloody, extracted from the root. We all worry if he is going to be ok and I promise to check on him before I go home. and I do, after a few more shots.

I walk to his house, which isn’t that far, with T, who is still angry but no more than usual. We ring the bell and wait. Then ring it again and wait. We call his phone and no one answers. He passed out. When he wakes up he will be in brutal misery. That’s for sure.

When I get home the sun is up and my apartment is filled with great, painful light. I kick off my shoes and see the splatters of paint, the ones that dripped on the toe and covered the heel; that slid to the side and dried for good. I hope the kid is all right. I can only take one loss at a time.
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:gray matters: by jkg is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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